I'm turning into my mother
The other habit my mother has given me, staring at the ground for lost orchids.
Argh! I'm turning into my mother. Specifically I seem to have, in the last two years, adopted her stance on holidays. That is to say you're not allowed one between the 1st of April and the 2nd of October because that would mean leaving things GROWING ON THEIR OWN.
My mother is of the opinion that it is madness to leave England when the weather is so fine (that in her mind merely means it's just not cold and windy, she seems impervious to rain). So she put a ban on any holidays throughout the summer saying all she needed was her garden. And here I am 20 years later agreeing with her.
There's one problem with this in less than 24 hours I need to be in Italy to teach for a week. It is a lovely job, good food, and good wine, some of the most beautiful gardens in the world and other so strange and beguiling that the whole thing is a feast.
I'll come back several pounds heavier (Naples pizza and Ischia ice-cream) with too many packets of Italian tomatoes I'll never have space to grow. I'll also come back to a garden and allotment that will have been unsupervised for a week and god only knows what that will look like?
Tender things with nowhere to go.
But right now I need to worry about squashes, courgettes, pumpkins and achocha (look it up, it's a weird south American cucumber). I have a small army that is getting ready to take on the allotment, but they are not quite there yet. That and for the first week or so that the cucurbits go out you have to go on squirrel duty.
Our band of squirrels take great joy in snapping off the stems of anything that might look appealing to eat but turns out not to be. They particularly like to leave the stems half dangling as if to mock your efforts.
It requires vigilance, many plastic bottle cloches, trip wires, sparkly things, rude notes (no joke one of the old boys writes notes to the squirrels, it's genius really) and any other conceivable and generally useless method to hand.
Do I leave them to the dice with drought at the hands of my husband or to be ripped to shreds by the squirrels or spend a night shivering if the temperature drops? I feel truly torn between the thought of ice cream, fountains and roses and a dozen or so small plants.
Still there is nothing like a week away to let you see the garden afresh again. It's perhaps the most important part of the journey. You see it anew, it successes and failures can be assessed without the clutters of yesterday's thoughts. The most surprisingly thing is? It almost always does fine without you, in fact in thrives on the independence.
Alys Fowler is a writer and broadcaster.